School is out. It ends the weirdest school year any of us can remember. They were in and out because of the pandemic. Going to school on the internet became the norm rather than an exception. It makes one curious as to how much they lost academically during the year. Maybe nothing. I do not know. Then again, it is hard to replace the interactions with their peers. It is my experience that developing those teenage relationships was as big a part of my learning as was academics. Then again, that was only my experience.

When I started elementary school, I remember my Daddy taking me to school and telling the principal, Mr. Lee Roy Tippens, if I misbehaved, to paddle me. He also told him to call him and let him know and I would get it again when I got home. Even at 6 years old, I believed what I heard. Mr. Tippens never had to paddle me because I knew better than to test the waters. My behavior did get me paddled a few times. But none of those rose to the level of being sent to Mr. Tippen’s office.

Homer Key was my teacher in the eighth grade before he went on to be an assistant principal at Cherokee High School. He once or twice warned me for talking in class. On one occasion he told me if he caught me talking again, he would put me in the closet in the classroom. When I talked again, he put me on the shelf in the closet and closed the door. Before anyone flips out about this, he was not being mean. He checked on me once every minute or two. Every time he opened the door, he had a smile on his face. Mr. Key taught me a lesson. He is a man of his word.

When I was a detective, often I would work with abused children. This sometimes took me to Cherokee High School to collaborate with Mr. Key. I once walked in with a chew of tobacco in my mouth. When he saw it, he held his trash can out and told me to spit it out. He looked right past my badge and gun and saw the same eighth grader he put in the closet. I did as I was told. I am glad he is retired now. His way of discipline would probably be offensive to many in the soft society we have turned in to. Homer Key is one of the greatest men I have ever known. It is doubtful anyone could find an educator who loved their students more.

During my last two years of high school, I became a little more rambunctious. After getting into a scuffle, I found myself staring at assistant principal Ronnie Smith. After reading me the riot act on fighting, Mr. Smith told me I would be getting 3 licks with the paddle, once a week for 6 weeks. Eighteen licks seemed reasonable considering the seriousness of the offence.

At the time, I was his aide, and he was my golf coach. There was no bad blood between us. On week 5, he offered me a deal. He said he would give me 3 licks right-handed and 2 licks left-handed, and we would call it even. I snickered and said, “Let’s do it.” This would be one of many bad decisions in my life. He was better left-handed than he was with the right. Forty years later, he and I still laugh about it. Mr. Smith is another one of the greatest men I know. He will always have my admiration and respect.

Society has progressed since my childhood. No longer do we tolerate corporal punishment. We have time-out and suspension for those who do not obey the rules. You know that puts the fear in a kid. Even in elementary school, we had basketball tryouts. If you were not one of the best ten or so, you did not make the team. And trophies were for championships.

Today, every child gets a trophy so they will feel special and equal to all their peers. I have news for you. We are all equal in the eyes of God. And His eyes only. That is it. Some people have more talent than others. Celebrate that. And this is coming from someone with little to no talent.

Giving a participation trophy is not preparing a child for life. Life is hard. It is best learned early.

A recent school board meeting turned in to a fiasco. I will not get into the subject matter as not to attract a debate. According to the news and social media, the crowd was rude and obnoxious. Some would even say the crowd was threatening. The fact people are surprised by this mesmerizes me. The “Every child gets a trophy” generation is all grown up. They are not accustomed to consequences. Imagine what teachers must put up with every day. With a little Homer Key and Ronnie Smith in their lives, they might have acted better.

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Chris Collett is a longtime resident of Cherokee County.

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